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With CR passed, Pentagon mulls fewer furloughs

Mar. 21, 2013 - 02:20PM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments
The Defense Department is considering measures such as hiring freezes, layoffs and furloughs in the likelihood of severe budget cuts this year.
The Defense Department is considering measures such as hiring freezes, layoffs and furloughs in the likelihood of severe budget cuts this year. (Defense Department)

The Pentagon is delaying furlough notices to nearly 800,000 employees for two weeks while it considers how the newly passed continuing resolution will affect its planned sequester budget cuts.

The CR could allow the Defense Department to trim a few of the 22 planned furlough days.

In an e-mail Thursday, Jessica Wright, the acting undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness, said “this delay [in issuing furlough notices] will allow the department to carefully analyze the impact of pending continuing resolution legislation on the department's resources.”

The CR, which passed Congress Thursday morning and will fund the government for the rest of fiscal 2013, will give the Defense Department more flexibility to manage the sequester cuts by moving $10.4 billion into its operations and maintenance accounts.

The e-mail does not refer to any specific flexibilities in the CR, but said the bill “could have some impact on the overall number of furlough days.” However, Wright said no decision on cutting furlough days has so far been reached.

“We believe the delay is a responsible step to take in order to assure our civilian employees that we do not take lightly the prospect of furloughs and the resulting decrease in employee pay,” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said in a statement.

Earlier this week, the Pentagon had been planning to issue proposed furlough notices between March 22 and 26. Wright said those notices will now be issued April 5, and that managers should not issue notices earlier without permission from herself or Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale.

The Pentagon had previously planned to begin furloughing employees April 25. But agencies are required to give employees 30 days' notice before they can be furloughed. By delaying notification until April 5, the Pentagon will not be able to furlough employees until May 6 at the earliest. That would leave 21 weeks before the end of the fiscal year, making it impossible to furlough employees for the full 22 days without requiring employees to take two furlough days in at least one week.

In her e-mail, Wright also said she and Hale have finished reviewing Defense components' requests to exempt some civilian employees from furloughs. She said the final list of furlough exemptions will be released after Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter reviews it.

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Andrew Tilghman contributed to this report.

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